RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Hundreds of volunteers flocked to Ridgewood's Windsor Bergen Academy to build a playground suitable for the school's students with special needs.
Village officials and community members alike gathered at the Passaic Street school on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"It was an amazing day that really put my belief back in humanity," said WBA clinical social worker Amy Giesler, who spearheaded the initiative for the playground.
The school draws students from Tenafly, Lodi, Hackensack, Demarest, Closter, Paramus, Harrington Park, Franklin Lakes, Saddle Brook, Bergenfield, Mahwah, Hillsdale, and dozens of other towns across New Jersey.
"It was an exemplary moment of how many hands can come together to do something amazing," Giesler added.
Since moving to Ridgewood last year from its Woodland Park location, the school has lacked an appropriate playscape for the children, Giesler told Daily Voice.
In January, Giesler applied for a grant through Kaboom!, a national non-profit that matches community organizations with corporate funding partners to promote “balanced and active play” in the lives of American children.
Six months later, she got the call with the happy news that PSE&G was going to sponsor the playground.
The only hitch: it was up to them to build it.
"That was hard for me at first to wrap my head around," Giesler said. "How were we doing to do that? It was an unimaginable task."
But then she thought about the students.
"In my 20 years, they have never failed to surprise me," Giesler said of the special needs children she's long worked with. "I see them achieve things we never thought possible and I knew we had to move ahead.
"And we could do it with all hands on deck."
Planning began in July. Kaboom! sent representatives from Washington D.C. to meet with students for a design day.
Last Tuesday was the planning process when holes were dug, wood was cut and asphalt was prepared.
The playground that stands today incorporates elements from the more than 60 renderings created by the students, and is available to the public outside of school hours.
"There is still positivity in the world and inherent good in people," Giesler said. "They're willing to come together and do something good for kids."